Whoever coined the phrase ‘emotional rollercoaster’ was bang on.
You strap yourself in for the ride of your life, all excited, trying not to piss your pants…
Then you end up getting chucked around, feeling totally powerless and blaming the rollercoaster for getting you into this mess.
I don’t need to tell you how exhausting and dangerous that kinda thinking and feeling is.
If you let yourself get chucked around by your emotions, you’re going to end up feeling out of control, exhausted, and probably turn to bad coping mechanisms.
This doesn’t mean you’ve gotta be a robot or pretend you’re not going through shit. That’s unhealthy as hell too.
Emotional regulation is a means of acknowledging emotions, exploring why you feel that way, then responding in a way that’s appropriate for the situation.
Common example – stress in the workplace, happens to the best of us.
You might have a big disaster on your hands or a never-ending to-do list, and it’s making you feel angry, stressed, and overwhelmed.
In this situation, you’ve got two options.
You can feed those negative emotions and think about how shit the situation is and marinate in it, then next thing you know you’ve flipped your lid.
Or, what I recommend, is you regulate your emotions. Let me break it down in a step-by-step.
The five steps to emotional regulation:
A lot of people don’t actually recognise when they’re stressed. They live in such a constant state of stress, that they don’t actually know what it feels like to be not stressed. Most people are so stressed that when they’re relaxed, they go “f**k, something wrong. I need to do something, this doesn’t feel normal”. Do you know why? Because cortisol (the hormone we release during stress) is just as addictive as a drug. Cortisol is addictive, and stress is addictive. A lot of us seek out stress in unhealthy ways, so you’ve got to be aware of when you’re actually in a state of stress.
No matter what situation you’re in, the least you can do is take a few deep breaths. I recommend the 6-6-6 method- breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 6 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds. The reason that the breath is so important, is because, through breath, we reset the autonomic nervous system. Breath also has the ability to raise our immune response. So by learning how to breathe, we’re able to de-stress quickly with the added bonus of increasing our ability to fight disease. So next time you’re stressed make sure you remember, 6-6-6, the number of the breath ?.
Manage the meaning.
One of the best ways to manage meaning is to ask questions like; what is the benefit of this? How is this serving me? What skills, knowledge, and experience am I gaining as a result of this? The goal is to take your stress triggers and remove their power from them. Anything that stresses or triggers you can control you and has power over you. If you can remove that power and control, you become infinitely powerful. If you can get to a state where ultimately you’re grateful for the “Stress” that has entered your life, that is absolutely gold. When we experience gratitude, a hormone called DHEA enters our bloodstream. And as our DHEA levels elevate, our cortisol levels decline.
Move your body.
You want to take that tension out of your body and put it somewhere productive. By moving around, you can regulate the biology, physiology, and biochemistry, in order to resolve the energy we feel bubbling up in us. High performers are really good at taking stress and transforming it and directing it into the activities that will generate the outcome they’re looking for. Pro tennis players aren’t on the court thinking “Oh god, what if I lose this shot?”. They feel the stress, and shake it off, ever notice how they’re constantly moving and bouncing around? Then they visualise their next shot, they’re ready for action, then- boom! They hit it straight down the line.
We repeat this process until we reach a level of saturation. When I was training with special forces, they would identify a level of saturation, and after that is a point of diminishing returns. You become fatigued and start making mistakes, can’t retain information. At this point, it’s crucial to leave the stressful environment. This is where you remove the stressful stimulus. Everyone’s saturation point is different, but this method allows you to reach that limit each time and nudge it a bit further.
This process allows you to regulate your thoughts and emotions at a biophysical level.
Once you’ve worked yourself down from those big, heightened feelings, you can focus on responding in a more constructive way.
Emotional regulation is one of the most important skills you’ll ever learn and the reason a lot of adults don’t know how to is because we were never shown how as kids.
Children’s emotions are totally unregulated – they chuck tantrums and cry and scream like nobody’s business.
Instead of yelling “stop it“ and “go to your room”, try helping your kid to breathe with you, letting them know it’s ok and you’re there.
What happens is you’re creating a safe space for your kid to explore and express their emotions.
And you’re teaching them emotional regulation by showing them how.